The Handmaid’s Tale!
- By Michael Jacobo
- Photos Courtesy of Hulu
The Handmaid’s Tale returns for its second season on Hulu this month. The widely acclaimed first season startled viewers and critics alike for having so much truth and accuracy in its plot, especially having had premiered after the most polarizing and prejudicial presidential election we’ve had in our lifetimes.
The series stars Elisabeth Moss (who was, let’s be real here, the true star of AMC’s Mad Men — Peggy Olson in that last season? The complete opposite of her character in Handmaid’s) as June Osborne, who now goes as Offred (a possessive form of “of Fred”; Fred is her Master). After a second American civil war, a theocratic Christian government has taken over US democracy, and one of its many new policies is to subject women to harsh treatment, forcing them to conceive children after environmental and biological factors have decreased fertility rates in the country. The Handmaids are the selected women who are able to conceive children for their masters and their Wives.
The series is the second adaptation of the novel of the same name by Canadian science-fiction author, Margaret Atwood. I don’t use the term “science-fiction” with such certainty, as I wouldn’t for other similar authors such as Ray Bradbury and Philip K. Dick. Atwood’s worlds aren’t at all that different from ours, with the exception being few external factors that have real-world probability, especially in these days; consequently, Amazon currently has an anthology based on the works of Dick and HBO is set to premiere a mini-series adaptation of Bradbury’s dystopian Fahrenheit 451. Atwood’s novels contain themes that stretch far beyond the usual human “feelings,” like love, hate, etc. and instead explore the mechanics of language, identity, and even environmentalism (Atwood, herself, is a proclaimed environmentalist).
The novel, successful upon publication and awarded several prizes, has been marginalized to just a science-fiction book, thereby reducing its visual prose and cultural significance. In several interviews, Atwood has claimed the novel isn’t actually science-fiction, but rather speculative fiction, adding that the book doesn’t include content that hasn’t happened before, or that isn’t currently happening (the novel was first published in 1985).
The Handmaid’s Tale was created and developed by Bruce Miller, who has tremendous experience with science-fiction television; his previous works include the quirky, light-hearted Eureka on Syfy, and the darker The 100 on the CW. The Handmaid’s Tale, however, is a stark departure from these lighter toned, “easy-going” stories; Handmaid is his most boldest and audacious series yet. Moss serves as producer, and Atwood serves as a consulting producer, assisting the crew on modernizing the original source material to make it suitable for a contemporary television audience. She also co-wrote every episode of the first season.
Moss costars with Alexis Bledel (best known for Gilmore Girls), whose role as the lesbian Handmaid, Emily (Ofglen), added to the oppressive society’s horror. Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love), Ann Dowd (The Leftovers), and Samira Wiley (Orange is the New Black) also star in the first season. For their performances, Moss and Dowd were awarded Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively, at the Emmys, in addition to a Critics Choice and Golden Globe for Moss. Not bad!
The first season won the Emmy for Best Drama Series, becoming the first streaming series to do so, as well as the Critics Choice, Golden Globe, and Writers Guild. Serving as producer and star, this escalates Moss’s talent and inevitable rise as a powerhouse in television; Mad Men had won Best Drama four years in a row, and I would like to think the reason was because Moss was so darn good as Peggy. If you haven’t yet, start streaming Mad Men (available on Netflix) as well as The Handmaid’s Tale (on Hulu) as soon as you can.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” season 2 begins streaming April 25th on Hulu.